The WWE Network has been around for just over six years.
There’s been talk of WWE turning to other avenues for some of its pay-per-views. Like, you know, pay-per-view. But with most of the country not quite out of coronavirus-induced quarantine, there’s no better product for a wrestling fan.
I don’t get to enjoy WWE Network quite as often as I’d like. More often than not, it’s background noise. Or it’s a research tool.
But when I do get to click around the WWE Network, I’m always reminded that – although you have to do some digging to find it – there is some great stuff available.
Here’s the best WWE Network material to binge in isolation, both in terms of original content and archived pay-per-views.
Pay-Per-View: ECW One Night Stand 2005
It’s a little redundant at this point to say that WWE dropped the ball with its acquisition of the ECW name and library in 2001.
Gone were the classic bloodbaths that made Paul Heyman’s baby EC-F’n-W. It was a watered down, cartoon version of its former self until it became about as must-watch as WCW Thunder.
But the WWE Network is nothing if not a tool to fuel nostalgia. And ECW One Night Stand 2005 is a show that checks all the boxes. It’s a show that offers ECW fans the best of what they remembered about the brand.
It broadcast live from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, it had Joey Styles on the call, and it had the crazy action that made ECW a wrestling cult classic in the mid-to-late 90s.
But it was far from just a nostalgia trip. The show featured guys who were top guys in WWE at the time in big matches – who also happened to have cut their teeth in ECW.
Chris Jericho vs. Lance Storm and Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit are matches that can carry any show anywhere.
And then there were the names that ECW fans remembered. Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanka, Rhyno taking on Sabu, and a madcap main event pitting the Dudley Boyz against Tommy Dreamer and the Sandman.
As they often do, WWE took all the wrong lessons from the show’s success and threw together the aforementioned turd that was the ECW reboot.
But you ever wanted an “Intro To” course on what ECW really was, the WWE Network has your back with ECW One Night Stand 2005.
Original Content: WWE 24
I’ve spent many hours watching WWE 24 on the WWE Network. Often, I don’t even pay attention to the topic at hand.
If I see there’s a new WWE 24 on the WWE Network, I am there.
WWE 24 is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at some of WWE’s biggest events and moments. The show follows stars during the 24 hours leading up to a big show, interspersed with retrospective looks at how they got there.
The latest WWE 24 is about Edge’s return to WWE leading up to Royal Rumble 2020. Preceding that episode was one on R-Truth that was both entertaining and emotional.
There’s the obvious ones that are pretty interchangeable with one another. If you watch the WWE 24 on WrestleMania 35, then trust me. You’ve seen the WWE 24 on WrestleMania 34.
But the way the WWE Network gives us a glimpse at the mindset of the men and women of WWE as they walk into events and moments that will change their lives and careers is often emotional and always worth watching.
Pay-Per-View: WWF In Your House: Canadian Stampede (1997)
If you were one of those internet wrestling fans who only got into wrestling because your buddies at school said you had to see the nWo or Stone Cold, this show is the stuff of legend.
And I was one of those fans.
I remember trying to play catch-up on the wrestling business by digging into reviews of the best shows in recent years. And every list of the best always contained WWF In Your House: Canadian Stampede from July of 1997.
If you’ve never seen the show, again, the WWE Network has you covered. First of all, can we get a shoutout for the In Your House format?
When the WWF realized they had to compete with WCW’s ability to put on 12 PPVs a year, the In Your House shows was their answer. IYH shows typically clocked in right at two hours, while the Big Five PPVs would be three hours. So, at most, you’re going to get four or five matches.
IYH was pretty hit-and-miss from month-to-month. But Canadian Stampede is a hit from start-to-finish. Mankind battled the just-crowned King of the Ring, Triple H, the Undertaker defended the WWF title against Vader, and there was a solid match for the now-defunct WWF Light Heavyweight Championship.
But the story of this show is the main event. It was the height of Bret Hart’s “anti-American” angle. The Hitman reformed the Hart Foundation with his brother Owen, brothers-in-law Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith, and Brian Pillman. They faced Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust, and the Legion of Doom in a 10-man tag team match.
Now, you’ll see shows with big reactions all over the WWE Network. But Canadian Stampede is crowd energy on a whole other level. The roof nearly blows off the building on Hart’s entrance, Austin’s literal every move is booed, and the place goes nuts when Owen Hart picks up the victory for the Canadians.
It’s a brilliant show from start-to-finish, and it’s Bret Hart’s final genuine feel-good moment with the WWF. Definitely worth pulling up on the WWE Network.
Original Content: WWE Untold
WWE Untold is essentially what wrestling fans were hoping for from the WWE Network when it was launched in 2014.
It is, essentially, the dissection of classic matches and moments from WWE history. Think a DVD or Blu-ray bonus feature about how a major set piece or special effects sequence was put together.
But for wrestling matches.
I could binge this show all day long if there were enough episodes to fill 24 hours. And if the show itself was long enough.
A more recent episode is about the classic match between Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 21. It follows their feud from the start, with their confrontation at Royal Rumble 2005 all the way to their WrestleMania showdown. There’s commentary from the wrestlers themselves, the agents and producers who put the show together, and NXT star Johnny Gargano offers a fan’s perspective on the feud and the match.
The newest episode on the WWE Network covers the feud between Cactus Jack and Triple H from January and February of 2000. It was the feud that turned Triple H from someone the company could maybe run with on top to a bona fide main eventer. Hearing how the feud was put together from Mick Foley, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon is a great way to gain insight into pro wrestling at its best.
There are other great episodes on the WWE Network, including a show tracking Sting’s two high-profile matches in WWE. It tracks his surprise appearance at Survivor Series 2014, his showdown with Triple H at WrestleMania 31, and the battle with Seth Rollins in late 2015 that spelled the end of his career.
If one-on-one interview shows (we’ll get there) aren’t your thing, but you want an insider’s look at how great matches and stories come together, check out WWE Untold on the WWE Network.
Pay-Per-View: WrestleMania X-Seven
Like the Montreal Screwjob, there really isn’t much to say about WrestleMania X-Seven that hasn’t already been said.
But it’s the greatest pro wrestling PPV ever. And it’s also the most rewatchable PPV ever.
It’s a stacked card from top-to-bottom, and I’ve watched it at least three times in its entirety in my years as a WWE Network subscriber.
WrestleMania III with Hogan vs. Andre and Savage vs. Steamboat is the show that put pro wrestling on the national map. But WrestleMania X-Seven is a mark of the times as the absolute peak of the pro wrestling business.
It was the first show after WWE vanquished WCW and claimed victory in the Monday Night War. And it was the last time McMahon family drama was ever entertaining.
WrestleMania X-Seven has the perfect balance of solid wrestling (Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle), soap opera madness (Vince vs. Shane), goofy comedy (Gimmick Battle Royal), and solid sports-entertainment (Triple H vs. Undertaker). And of course, the main event between ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and the Rock. Sure, it ended with the most ill-advised heel turn of all time.
But the show was an absolute classic. It marked the end of the Attitude Era, and is one of the best ways to spend your time on the WWE Network.
Original Content: Stone Cold Podcast/The Broken Skull Sessions
If you had told me in 1998 that ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin would be the Barbara Walters of WWE, a couple questions might have crossed my mind.
First among them, “What the hell is a WWE?”
Because the Texas Rattlesnake and one-on-one interviews don’t seem like they should go together. But when the WWE Network decided to make its own version of Austin’s podcast, they committed to the best original content they could’ve hoped for.
After all, if you want top stars to do big-time interviews and reveal big-time perspectives on the business, you’ve got to put them across the table from somebody they respect. And somebody who won’t take wishy washy answers.
The Stone Cold Podcast kicked off in late 2014 on the WWE Network with Vince McMahon as the first guest. It’s as close to a shoot interview as will ever be conducted with Vince McMahon. Austin gets some good stories out of McMahon and asks some tough questions. Plus, it’s really fun watching Austin’s eyes call bullsh*t on most of what McMahon is telling him.
There was a trainwreck of an interview with Dean Ambrose in 2016 that spelled the end of the podcast. It’s still worth watching, if only to see the seeds of Ambrose’s (now AEW World Champion Jon Moxley) dissatisfaction with WWE.
The show was relaunched on the WWE Network in late 2019 as The Broken Skull Sessions, and the Network came through with another killer first guest: The Undertaker.
As with Vince, where else can you see the Undertaker speak candidly about his career and pro wrestling in general? The WWE Network came through big time with Austin as their go-to interviewer.
And in Austin’s interview with Bret Hart, there’s a great segment where the two Hall of Famers essentially do director’s commentary on their WrestleMania 13 classic.
All images courtesy of WWE.